By Gwendoline Allison
It was a glorious day on Saturday, and what better way to enjoy the bright sun than to head to the beach at Dundarave for the second day of free concerts, the Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song, presented as part of the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
If there was one phrase to describe the day it was “a community in action”:
1. performers, artists, volunteers and service providers, all people from our community, joining together and sharing their skills, talents and histories for the enjoyment of others;
2. performers offering support, encouragement and gratitude to one another; and
3. a whole community raising money to end homelessness in our community.
I arrived as the preparations were beginning. Doug from Wild Coast Productions was there, setting up our longhouse and the sound system for our performers. Tim Lack built a lattice shelter in the gazebo for the Dundarave Nativity, to house that astonishing piece of art while we enjoy its presence on our beach.
Michael, Mary, Sofia, Brad, Tim, Aaron, Bill and Jean, and the Sheppards all arrived to set up the Nativity. The Dundarave Nativity is an extraordinary West Vancouver tradition. Several years ago, master carver Bill Seminoff took on the project of restoring the Nativity. Bill took the original pieces (Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd, a king and a sheep), stripped off the lead paint which covered them and refinished them with a paint that will allow our children to touch the pieces.
TimberWest Forest Products, through the generous intervention of Tony Petrina and Paul McElligott, donated two raw logs to Bill to carve new pieces. With Nick Sheppard, they hauled the two tons of soaking wet cedar up from the beach and stored them in Nick’s workshop at Cedar Coast Fence Ltd. As the logs dried out, Bill set about carving three new pieces, a donkey and two kings; and the new pieces are magnificent.
We had the great privilege at the Festival’s second Saturday of free concerts on Dundarave Beach of unveiling the last of the new pieces: a king, Caspar, who has taken his place in the Nativity. Please take the time to come down to the beach and enjoy Bill’s creations.
The Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song Saturday kicked off with Elder Wendy Charbonneau of the Squamish Nation. Elder Wendy is a direct descendant of Chief George Capilano, who welcomed Captain Vancouver and Captain Cook to our shores. As has become the festival tradition, Elder Wendy welcomed the festival and gave it her blessing. On behalf of the festival, she offered her profound gratitude to Bill Seminoff for his work, and she spoke of her childhood memories of her granny and great granny seeking out nativities to visit with her.
Elder Wendy bade us all “eyes”, which means “peace” in Squamish. She sang three songs, including her world-famous Paddle song, sung with Sister Denise, Elder Wendy’s companion in the canoe. Elder Wendy ended by leading a procession from the gazebo through our forest of trees and into the longhouse where our first band, the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, was in place and ready to start.
The West Vancouver Adult Pops Band was founded in 1931. Its members were parents of children who played in the West Vancouver Youth Band. The parents decided that they wanted to play music too, so formed their own band. Under their conductor, Tak Maeda, they meet once a week at the West Vancouver Community Centre to play music and enjoy other’s company. The band played a set of well-known Christmas tunes to get us in the mood.
As the band played, other performers came in to watch and support their fellow performers. That continued throughout the day. Michael and Mary Markwick were everywhere, ensuring that the day went smoothly. Sofia and Brad Kennedy worked non-stop, decorating trees and ensuring the lights would come on again, with their trusty volunteer Tyron of the Maker's Body Boot Camp. Staff from Whole Foods served hot soup (Broccoli Cheddar this week – can’t wait to see what’s on offer next week) and hot cider. Staff from the Lookout Shelter lead by the shelter's manager Linda Fox came to support the festival and share their experiences and insight into the problem of homelessness in our community. We are all grateful for the commitment of all our volunteers.
Our next performers were the Lawn Dogs, a bluegrass band from Bowen Island. The Lawn Dogs comprise four friends who gather in their local pub and play music. From their impromptu jam sessions, the Lawn Dogs emerged. They are a fixture on the local music scene and can often be found in the Red Lion on a Tuesday night. For me, bluegrass is an art form that bears witness to lives lived in harsh conditions. It was entirely appropriate therefore to hear such beautiful harmonies while contemplating the harshness of homelessness. It also served as a call to action.
The Lawn Dogs were cheered enthusiastically by our next performers, Dogwood and Dahlia, returning to the Dundarave Festival this year. Dogwood and Dahlia are an indie folk band of three young performers, who play beautiful music (harmonised vocals, guitar, banjo and double bass). They hail from North Vancouver and Langley, and are now based in White Rock. I expect we will hear great things from them in the future. I know I will be hearing a lot from them since my twelve year old daughter bought their CD.
Dogwood and Dahlia sang a set of their own material, and then were joined by local music legend David Newberry. David joined them in playing their music, then Dogwood and Dahlia returned the compliment by joining David in playing some of his songs: a collaboration borne from mutual respect. The four performers sang a gorgeous, soft version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I hope to see that recorded in the future.
David, of course, does double duty at the festival. In addition to being a star attraction as an award-winning performer, David also works at the Lookout Shelter as a community liaison.
Dogwood and Dahlia ceded the longhouse to one of the festival’s traditional draws: the Bowen Island Black Sheep Morris Dancers. The Black Sheep are committed performers and supporters of the festival. They have been with us for years, and often perform on multiple days. Once again, the Black Sheep brought their raucous enthusiasm and talent, and showed us just what the Old English got up to during the long, cold, dark winters. They will join us again on December 22.
The concert closed out with Wednesday at Ernie’s, a large band of local performers. Like our opening performers the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, Wednesday at Ernie’s is a collection of parents of past and present West Vancouver Youth Band members. The parents rightfully thought their children should not get all the fun, so they formed their own band. About 28 of them had us all dancing at the beach as the Christmas tree lights came on at dusk.
All in all, our day was one of our community gathering to appreciate our talents and to support one another. Our day was made better by our funding from Heritage Canada. That funding is vital to our ability to provide a shelter for our performers and audiences in the Dundarave Festival Longhouse and Dundarave Nativity Pavillion, our amazing sound system and a small honorarium for our performers.
Most importantly, throughout the day, we continued to raise funds for the Lookout Shelter. The shelter staff were busy taking donations from performers and spectators, and as the festival wound up for the day, we were inundated by people asking how they can donate. The answer is online, at this website, and on the next two Saturdays at the festival itself.
I know what I will be doing next Saturday. I invite you to join me at the beach at Dundarave for another day of free concerts.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.